Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s exclusion from the Arsenal squad could open the door to Eddie Nketiah and Charlie Patino getting more opportunities in the first team.
The duo impressed on Tuesday night, with Nketiah scoring a hat-trick and Patino adding a fifth goal late in the game from the bench in the 5-1 win against Sunderland.
The Gunners booked themselves into the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup with the win, with Mikel Arteta set to see who he could face when the remaining quarter-final ties are played later tonight.
For the time being though, attention will shift to Norwich City on Boxing Day, with the Arsenal boss facing the media ahead of the trip and discussing both players’ chances going into the game.
Arteta has guided his side to fourth following a huge makeover to the squad that saw older, high-earning players moved on in favour of younger players in a transfer window that cost roughly £150million.
The introduction and improvement of academy players has also been a large success for the Spaniard, with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka becoming regulars in both the starting line-up and the England senior squad.
Following Tuesday’s victory, we could see even more minutes for Nketiah and Patino, both of whom have been touted with big futures in the game.
The exclusion of Aubameyang, following a disciplinary breach and having the captaincy stripped of him, may give them the opportunity to feature more, with the striker who was once relied on so often not featuring in the past four squads.
Speaking ahead of his side’s clash with the Canaries, Arteta said: “With the way he’s [Eddie Nketiah] training and performing he deserves more minutes. That’s the way I would like to respond to that situation regardless of what happens with any other player.”
“We are trying really hard to do the best that we can,” Arteta said on Nketiah’s expiring contract. “The contract has an expiry date and you can’t control that and we’ve had discussions with Eddie for a long time. I repeat again that his genuine intention is that he wants to play football and that’s what’s driving whatever decision he’s going to take for his future and you have to respect that. But he’s obviously a player we want to keep and he’s come through the system. We will continue to do our best to keep him because we want him as part of our project and the club.”
He added on Aubameyang: “We will go game by game and we will decide the squad as we get closer to the game.”
Patino made his debut in the clash with Sunderland, capping off his appearance from the bench with a well-timed run and finish in the box.
With the upcoming fixture schedule and players set to leave for AFCON, Arteta has suggested he will play him if there is the need to.
“Charlie is with us more and more in training sessions, yesterday was his first competitive match which was a beautiful day for him and everybody involved in the club and we’ll go slowly from there,” said Arteta.
“If we need him, we’ll use him, if the numbers are quiet. But we have to throw him in there when we believe he’s ready and he’s making the right steps and we’re really happy with where we are.”